Flap Over White House Holiday Card

The official season's greetings card being sent out by the White House on behalf of the president and first lady is stirring up controversy.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante that the reason is because the card never uses the word "Christmas," in deference to other holidays celebrated at this time of year, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Day.

Plante says the closest the card gets to mentioning Christmas is, "Best wishes for a holiday season," so no one in this very diverse nation is excluded.

"It's a Christmas card," says William Donohue, president of The Catholic League. "What's wrong with the president of the United States, who's a practicing Christian, from saying 'Merry Christmas' in his Christmas card?"

That, Plante says, has some Christian conservatives, who are pushing retailers and schools to call this holiday "Christmas," very upset.

"The president of the United States, we thought, is one of us," Donohue says. "This is a small step, but it is a step in the wrong direction. He's sending the wrong message at Christmastime."

In simpler times, Plante says, presidents wished you a very merry Christmas, and sometimes, season's greetings. But the first President Bush was the last to mention Christmas on his holiday cards.

"You can be a Catholic, a Jew, a Mormon, a Muslim, but it's a time to celebrate," says former White House Social Secretary Letitia Baldrige. "It's a happy season, and that's what the card says."

Baldrige, who served in the Kennedy White House, thinks the fight over taking Christmas out of the president's card is much ado about nothing.

"To turn it into a sectarian war is just pitiful. It shows how really insecure we all are as a nation," she says.

Though this President Bush doesn't mention Christmas on his card, he always includes a verse or two of Old Testament scripture, religious, to be sure, but not explicitly Christian.

Call it, Plante suggests, diversity insurance for a happy holiday.
  • Brian Dakss

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